While health systems like academic medical systems aim to drive digital innovation, trying to navigate their complex organizational structures and identifying their key stakeholders can be a major deterrent for healthcare innovators looking to collaborate.
For innovators interested in advancing their idea, research or product in partnership with a health system or academic medical center, there are generally two pathways to follow: research and development, and quality improvement. Companies focused on research, such as clinical studies or product development, will often follow the research and development path. Those interested in testing if existing knowledge or technology developed outside the medical setting can improve healthcare outcomes generally follow the quality improvement pathway.
Both pathways need to consider whether the project involves using patient data that already exists versus a project where new data will be gathered. Each health system will likely have different policies, processes and considerations for access to these types of data as well as intellectual property considerations and clinical adoption concerns.
The four primary stakeholder groups for navigating the pathways are: decision-makers, facilitators, gatekeepers and influencers. The first step for innovators in either pathway is to identify people within the health system who have related interests and expertise in the space, and can serve as influencers and decision-makers in the process. The key decision-maker could also be an administrative committee or group. In such cases, both the clinicians and their administrators serve as influencers and decision-makers. External stakeholders such as caregivers, patients, consumers and users should also be considered as influencers. Along the way, innovators will also interact with gatekeepers in various departments who ensure procedures and policies are followed. If an innovator needs assistance in identifying the appropriate influencers or decision-makers, they can approach facilitators who help make connections. Facilitators can also help navigate the overall process.
Stakeholders will often times have intersecting roles as decision-makers, facilitators, gatekeepers and influencers. Considering these complexities, health systems interested in partnering with healthcare innovators should consider having a primary contact for innovators to connect with and developing a custom pathway for innovators to follow. Providing these insights more openly can help demystify the internal process for creating innovative digital health solutions and will help not only innovators in navigating the process, but also provide an opportunity for the health system to prioritize digital innovation.
For a company or startup looking to run a clinical trial, advance a product or pilot a prototype, the pathways that follow provide a general outline for identifying key stakeholders and their roles as decision-makers, facilitators, gatekeepers and influencers within a health system.
By promoting collaboration that advances digital health innovation, together health systems and innovators have the potential to change the future of healthcare.
Click image to enlarge | Download PDF | Source: Dinesh Divakaran, PhD, Director, Digital Innovations, Office of Licensing & Ventures, Duke Health & Duke University; a HIMSS Innovation Committee Member
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